Talking About Race: How local school districts are teaching, discussing race

As children start the new school year, Channel 9 is talking about race in schools.

A big question for parents is how do they know what’s being taught about race in their children’s classroom?

We reached out to all our local school districts about how they teach race in their schools. We have not heard back from all of them, but will add responses from other districts as we get them. Here are the questions we sent to each school district:

  1. What guidance is given to staff regarding lesson plans involving race? Is there a link to that guidance? If so, how can we access it?
  2. How much leeway does each teacher have when teaching lessons that involve race?
  3. What changes, if any, are being made this upcoming school year regarding lessons about race?
  4. If HB324 were to pass, what changes, if any, would your district have to make to lesson plans?
  5. What is the best way for parents to find out what their child is being taught regarding race in their individual classroom?

Below are the responses from school districts that we have received so far:

Hickory City Schools:
  1. HPS does not direct its teachers on any particular topics in history. HPS acknowledges the content knowledge of its teachers and allows them to develop and implement lesson plans that are aligned with state standards and developmentally appropriate.
  2. HPS teachers are allowed to present academic information that is aligned with North Carolina state standards.
  3. HPS is working to implement the new North Carolina state standards that were adopted in February 2021.
  4. As always, HPS will comply with any and all North Carolina General Statutes. Our teachers will continue to provide instruction that is aligned with North Carolina state standards.
  5. HPS (district and staff) is fully transparent with the content we provide. If a parent has a question or is interested in viewing/reviewing what their child is being taught they can access that information in multiple ways. For example, parents can reach out to the teacher/administrator in question to discuss this topic or they can utilize avenues such as PowerSchool or Canvas to view the topics being covered/taught in a particular class.
Lancaster County School District:

Lancaster County Schools sent Channel 9 their school curriculum and what they are teaching in their classrooms. Click here for their curriculum.

Mooresville Graded School District:

Race is part of our curriculum to the extent it is part of our North Carolina history or civics standards. Of course, we include a wide range of readings from diverse cultures and perspectives in our ELA curriculum, too. MGSD has worked diligently over the past few years to ensure we are teaching lessons that reflect all of our students, including our students from varying backgrounds and cultures. MGSD utilizes grade-level PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) consisting of teachers and support staff to decide which resources we will use and how we will teach the different standards. Age appropriateness is always considered during the construction of these lessons. When addressing current events around race and racism, we provide the known facts and rely on students to use critical thinking skills to form their own conclusions.

On August 4, 2021, our Board of Education held a work session to discuss the revised NC Social Studies Standards, as well as our district’s initiatives in regards to diversity, equity, and inclusion. In a presentation to the Board, the following slides were shared about our approach to the revised Social Studies Standards: New NC Social Studies Standards. In addition, the following information was shared regarding the expectations for our teachers and the instruction of topics that some may find controversial: Good Teaching Practices.

This year MGSD began studying and executing the ideas and philosophies of Dr. Zaretta Hammond’s Culturally Responsive Teaching & the Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students. The philosophy set forth by Dr. Hammond is simply good teaching in practice. It assists in understanding how an individual’s culture influences how their brain processes information and affects relationships in the classroom. In addition, it gives mechanisms for building a student’s learning capacity so that they can become independent versus dependent learners. It is only through understanding both our own and our students’ cultural likenesses and differences that we can build the authentic relationships necessary for successful teaching and learning to occur in the classroom for every student. We are excited about what building relationships with our students, while holding them to high expectations with rigorous instruction, will mean for both our students and our district.

If HB324 were to pass, we would not make any changes to our lesson plans. We would continue to teach all of our students the history and lessons of our country, both positive and negative. Teaching children is our job. That includes teaching them a wide-range of ideas and facts so that they can learn and grow into critical thinkers far beyond their years of education in the Mooresville Graded School District.

Rock Hill Schools:

1. What guidance is given to staff regarding lesson plans involving race? Our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts follow our cultural competence commitment. Is there a link to that guidance? Yes. If so, how can we access it?

2. How much leeway does each teacher have when teaching lessons that involve race? Our team teaches our state standards. All of our guidance documents, instructional materials, curriculum and guidance are funneled through state standards. Additionally, the State of South Carolina has updated the teacher evaluation system to include clear expectations for creating inclusive learning environments. Our cultural competence commitment is grounded in these very practices. It is very important to us that all of our classrooms maintain inclusive environments that nurture each and every child by demonstrating acceptance, value, respect, and appreciation of diverse social identities present within our schools.

3. What changes, if any, are being made this upcoming school year regarding lessons about race? This year we are very focused on educating our educators on our cultural competence beliefs and inclusion compass. We believe we become stronger as an organization by taking the time to learn about the diverse identities present in our community first. Through our various Back to School initiatives we have taken time for self-exploration with thought-provoking presentations, speakers, and discussion.

Rowan-Salisbury Schools:

1. What guidance is given to staff regarding lesson plans involving race? Is there a link to that guidance? If so, how can we access it? We expect teachers to provide students with multiple points of view and perspectives from a neutral stance. We do not have linked guidance to provide.

2. How much leeway does each teacher have when teaching lessons that involve race? Teachers have leeway to create lessons but they should adhere to our school board policy and should directly address the NC standards. Lessons are reviewed by school based administration to ensure that they are appropriate for implementation.

3. What changes, if any, are being made this upcoming school year regarding lessons about race? No specific changes have been made.

4. If HB324 were to pass, what changes, if any, would your district have to make to lesson plans? None at this time, but we have not thoroughly reviewed this as the bill has not been finalized.

5. What is the best way for parents to find out what their child is being taught regarding race in their individual classroom? Speak directly to the child’s teacher and/or school based leadership if you have any questions or want to know more about lessons being utilized.

(Watch Below: Talking about race and money)